Nov. 18, 2010

Courtesy of UC San Diego

AUSTIN, Texas - Junior forward Sarah McTigue scored with 17 minutes remaining in the second half to lift the 12th-ranked UC San Diego women's soccer team to a 1-0 victory over No. 9 Seattle Pacific in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 on Thursday afternoon at St. Edward's University Soccer Field in Austin.

The Tritons improve to 17-2-3 on the season with the win, claiming the program's first West Regional title since 2006. UCSD advances to face No. 6 St. Edwards on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. PST with a trip to the Final Four on the line. The Hilltoppers defeated Central Missouri 3-2 to claim the South Central Regional Championship earlier in the day.

After the teams battled for 73 minutes with no score, UCSD won a throw-in near midfield along the left sideline. Shelby Wong took the throw, finding the feet of McTigue who was posted up on her defender about 35 yards from goal. McTigue turned her defender and cut the ball back inside to her right foot. Noticing a lack of pressure from the SPU defense, McTigue pounded the shot from 25 yards out, placing the ball into the upper left corner, past the outstretched hand of GNAC defensive player of the year, Maddie Dickinson.

"I looked up and had time to shoot and the ball happened to go upper-V," McTigue said. "It is probably the best goal I have scored in my life."

McTigue's goal stood to be the game-winner thanks in large part to the play of Triton goalkeeper, Kristin Armstrong, who's four saves on the day kept UCSD afloat and SPU off the scoreboard.

A minute after McTigue's goal, SPU gained a two-on-one advantage against UCSD's Ellen Wilson. The defender stepped up to pressure the ball, however, SPU's Hannah Masson threaded a ball through to an open Kellie Zakrzewski on the left side, putting Zakrzewski one-on-one with the UCSD keeper. Armstrong made herself has big as possible by sprinting at her attacker to close off the angle; Zakrzewski's shot attempt struck Armstrong squarely in the torso before Wilson cleared it to safety.

"Kristin really kept us in the game, she was absolutely massive for us," said UCSD head coach Brian McManus. "If she doesn't make a couple of saves we would have had to battle from behind and that always makes it more difficult."

Armstrong was first called to task with 25 minutes left in the first half, stopping a point-blank shot from Brandi Hamre after the SPU forward found herself alone behind the Triton backline. Ten minutes later, Falcon midfielder Kendall Thoreson sent in a high, curling shot towards goal. Armstrong backpedaled and leapt backwards to pin the ball between her glove and the crossbar, forcing it out for a corner kick.

UCSD won the corner kick battle, five to three, but SPU's 10 shots were two more than the Tritons could muster. McTigue led UCSD with four shots, Annette Ilg had two shots, and Gabi Hernandez and Jessica Wi each tallied a single shot attempt.

The Tritons had an opportunity to add an insurance goal with less than five minutes to play, however, Jessica Wi's shot off a McTigue cross in front of an open frame sailed wide right.

Up next for the Tritons is St. Edwards (17-1-2), which had three shots for three goals against Central Missouri. Having played four games in the past 15 days, McManus knows a quick recovery is necessary for success on Saturday against the Hilltoppers.

"We are going to head back to the hotel and try and find our legs. These past few weeks have been insane because of the games, the travel and the fact that our players are taking midterms and finals," said McManus. "If we are going to win we have to have luck on our side, but we can work to make that luck ourselves."